If the people of Britain have become sceptical of political promises of perpetual change, this is almost certainly because there has been so much coercive, involuntary change in the past two centuries that the idea of yet more upheaval has a diminishing appeal.

Who would have thought, 200 years ago, that Britain was nearing the end of agrarian society? The landscape, shaped by centuries of agriculture, must have appeared to those who lived there an enduring, unalterable setting for their lives; and if it was less than hospitable to the pauper and the labouring classes, it had at least a familiar ...


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